There’s nothing original about sin.
When some people read the Adam and Eve story in Genesis 3 they sometimes like to think that if they’d been in the garden then they wouldn’t have eaten the forbidden fruit… I mean, why would you risk paradise with God, each other and all creation for the fruit of a tree that God warned was fatal?
But the fact is, the Genesis 3 story of Adam and Eve is really our story. Every man is like Adam and every woman is like Eve, and in the same position we would make the same choice. In fact, one of the most profound elements of the Genesis 3 story is that we do find ourselves in the same position and we do make the same choice. What I mean is that the Genesis 3 story shows us the pattern of how sin always operates within our lives and our world, and it always seems to involve the same 3 steps:
The first step is the invitation to doubt God’s goodness (Gen 3:1).
We see this in Gen 3:1 when the serpent invites doubt into the mind of Eve “He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?“. Doubt is not an evil in itself, especially when it leads to a closer inspection of God’s character and a strengthened faith in his goodness, but you need to be wary of doubt that leads to distrust and false accusation. The difference between doubt which is good and doubt which is evil is how you respond to it, and here the response of the woman shows us the next step towards sinful rebellion…
The second step is holding a false image of God (Gen 3:2-3).
At first glance, the woman’s response seems good and valid, the serpent challenges God’s word and the woman sets him straight… well… almost… Yes the woman correctly remembers that God is generous in letting them eat from any tree in the garden and that God has been kind in warning them about the fatal fruit of the death tree, but she doesn’t properly remember God’s warning about the death tree, in fact she adds to God’s warning that “you must not touch it, or you will die“. This may seem like something small to us, but by misquoting God, the woman actually creates an image of God that is false, an image that makes him seem harsh and over bearing. So instead of understanding the warning as an action from a loving God, it nows sounds like legalistic rule making from a God who is insecure and maybe even selfish… And it’s this aspect that the serpent taps into for the third and final step towards all out sinful rebellion…
The third step is buying into the lie (Gen 3:4-7).
Having heard the woman’s uncertainty about God’s character, the serpent ceases the opportunity to exploit her suspicions about God “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’“. Here is the blatant lie: God is selfish. God is insecure. God wants to ruin your potential for joy and happiness and autonomy, and because the woman doubts God’s goodness, and holds a false image of God she and the man buy into the lie. The third & final step towards sinful rebellion is complete.
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.“
I wonder if you can see how this process works out in your own life? As you reflect about the times when you’ve given into sinful temptation, can you see these 3 things at work?
Beware of them next time you feel the pull of temptation and make the effort to respond to doubt properly, hold a true image of what God is actually like, and dismiss the lie while holding onto the truth.
Here is one case study as an example:
I think sex is one of the areas where we see these 3 steps most obviously. God says you can have sex with all it’s goodness and joy, and have lots of it (“eat from any tree“) but keep it for the marriage relationship between 1 man & 1 woman. If you use sex outside of the marriage relationship it will cause bitterness, pain, and destruction (“you will die“).
Then the steps towards sinful rebellion begin:
1. Your friend, your sexual desire, or the serpent invite doubt into your mind “Did God really say that you can’t ever know the joy of sex?”
2. You hold a false image of God. “God said I can have sex with all it’s goodness and joy, and have lots of it, but he did say keep it for the marriage relationship between 1 man & 1 woman and if you use sex outside of the marriage relationship or even think about yourself as a sexual being it will cause bitterness, pain, and destruction.”
3. You buy into the lie. “It certainly will not cause bitterness, pain and destruction! For God knows that when you have sex outside of the marriage relationship you’ll love it and it’ll be the best sex you’ve ever had! God’s not really interested in your happiness. God just wants to control you.
Then seeing that sex is pleasing to the eye and good for gaining pleasure and satisfying sexual desire we dismiss God’s word, God’s rule, and God’s love in order to serve ourselves. But of course, God was right all along, and sex outside of marriage brings all sorts of bitterness, pain, & destruction…